The Upside of Upcycling
Exploring the hot new eco-friendly building trend
photography Courtney Samway
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Builders and designers are rethinking the way they finish homes. There’s a bounty of raw and neglected materials out there and shifting our views on how materials are sourced can create surprising results. Some builders and designers may even be looking in your dumpster!
Upcycling is the term, and hot new trend, for using materials in a way that is significantly different from their original purpose, but still maintains—and can even increase—their value. There’s no need to sacrifice quality when repurposing materials.
Planned obsolescence and the idea that the economy could only survive if things were not built to last, but to be replaced, is itself becoming obsolete. The challenging economic times and ever-growing awareness about environmental impacts are forcing people and companies to consider new ways of reusing materials traditionally headed for the trash heap.
This growing trend is now reaching far beyond typical goods like glass, metal and plastic. Not only is upcycling often a smart financial move, it can add beauty and value to your home. The green building trend may be in high gear but there is one source that is often overlooked—salvaged supplies!
Left: Reclaimed beams were milled into a wood-plank countertop. Tractor seats were found at a yard sale and new metal legs were created. Right: Leftover rebar was turned into a rustic railing adding depth and texture to the balcony and stairway.
Josh Glick is a custom homebuilder and partner in Ketchum-based, Bashista Construction Corporation, and he’s also my husband. Well before we met, Josh had the opportunity to acquire a 200-year-old New England barn. He jumped at the chance and quickly rounded up 25 friends and family who spent a week helping him deconstruct, tag, palletize and ship his new—yet old—barn to Idaho.
The original barn stood on a sheep farm in Putney, Vermont, where Josh lived while attending college. No longer standing on its own, it was perfect for his plan. “I’d always dreamed of resurrecting an old structure from an architectural and historical perspective,” says Josh.
Josh’s work, passion and skills are dedicated to timeless design and the dying art of true carpentry, so the “hand made” elements of the old barn fit his vision perfectly. Growing up in Vermont, he learned about carpentry at a young age. He and his best friend felled trees, hewed them by hand and built “luxury” forts. That’s where he developed a love for the possibilities hidden inside trees.
Left: Every element of the fireplace facade is reclaimed or sidecycled. The mantel is part of the 200 year-old barn. Right: The bench was a watering trough before it was upcycled.
“Working with Frank (Bashista) for so many years has taught me to continually expand my knowledge and refine my skills. Many of our clients have spent the majority of their lives working toward building their dream homes,” says Josh. “Through those experiences, I learned how to create my own dream.”
When Josh and I met, he was still looking for the perfect property to raise the barn, which had sat idle for three years. Josh spent those years collecting reusable materials—framing components, light fixtures, appliances and lumber—anything he could find from teardowns, demos and remodels that had been earmarked for the trash heap. Many of his co-workers even jokingly called him the “Dumpster Diver” because he routinely crawled into construction dumpsters to pull out materials he thought to save from the landfill.
saved discarded finish wood, degraded structural beams
and piles of seemingly useless rebar,
and turned them into works of art.
So it was no surprise to see him crawling in the dumpster to salvage usable materials that I had tossed when it was time to build our house. “It’s not about being a Dumpster Diver, it’s about reducing waste and paying attention to what can be used elsewhere,” he said.
“I realized that a lot of materials were tossed out and with a little vision and effort I could create a pile of usable material,” he says. Regardless of the green narrative, the items that were created are precise pieces of craftsmanship with a rich history. Josh rescued huge amounts of rock from burial, saved discarded finish wood, degraded structural beams and piles of seemingly useless rebar, and turned them into works of art.